It was at the bottom of the pile of college letters. When Miami Lakes resident and Monsignor Edward Pace senior Nicholas Fernandez opened the envelope, he joined an exclusive group of students that have been honored as a National Merit Scholarship Program recipient.
The National Merit Scholarship Program is a well-known academic competition for recognition and scholarships that began in 1955. High school students enter the program by taking the Preliminary SAT (PSAT). Approximately 1.5 million high school juniors take the test each year. While some students advance to receive commended, semifinalist or even finalist standing, only 8,000 are selected to receive a Merit Scholarship award.
“We are so proud of what Nicholas has accomplished here,” said Pace principal Ana Garcia. “And while he has excelled academically, and is being rightfully recognized for those efforts, what he has done outside of the classroom has also made an impact to our school community and others, and is equally worthy of recognition.”
Fernandez was elected Student Council president after serving as class president in his freshmen through junior years. In addition to chairing the executive board, he is also Yearbook editor and a member of numerous honor societies and service clubs. In his freshman year, Fernandez created a club to organize various student efforts in support of the 50th anniversary of the school. A program he started, called "Got Sole?" featured a shoe drive for poor children that live in a small village in the Dominican Republic near the Haitian border.
Fernandez has personally delivered the more than 150 pairs of shoes and socks he has collected through his "Got Sole?" shoe drive at school, his church and through friends and family, during week-long mission trips for the past three years.
In addition to his National Merit Scholar status, Fernandez also received recognition as a National Hispanic Recognition Program scholar, is an AP Scholar with Distinction, was awarded a Comcast Scholarship, and earned Pace’s Principal Award for Outstanding Leadership.
As many faculty, classmates and Pace community members recently discovered, Fernandez also had a great talent for the arts. In Pace's most recent musical production, In the Heights, Fernandez showcased his theatrical talents in one of the lead roles, singing, dancing and acting on stage for over 1,300 audience members over a three-night schedule.
Fernandez has finalized his plans with the $2,500 National Merit Scholarship, as he had several universities to choose from, such as Harvard, Princeton, Cornell, University of Florida or University of Miami where he was accepted. He has decided to attend Princeton.
“There is no doubt that Nick will do well wherever he eventually chooses to go,” added Garcia. “We wish him only the very best.”